September 16, 2018 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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September 16, 2018

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

 

The Lord’s Day as the Center of our Christian Life

The third commandment of the Decalogue is “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:8).  As the Catechism says:

In speaking of the Sabbath Scripture recalls creation: ‘For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.’”  (CCC 2169)

Scripture also reveals in the Lord’s day a memorial of Israel’s liberation from bondage in Egypt: ‘You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out thence with mighty hand and outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.’” (2170)

Just as the Israelites were liberated from slavery in Egypt, and were instructed to keep one day each week as a day to remember God’s mercy shown to them, how much more do we as Christians, who have been liberated from our sins by the blood of Christ, need to take a day to remember and give thanks to God for his mercy?

God entrusted the Sabbath to Israel to keep as a sign of the irrevocable covenant.  The Sabbath is for the Lord, holy and set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on behalf of Israel.”  (2171)

Again, how much more do we as Christians, who have been made part of the “new and eternal covenant” in Christ, need to keep the Lord’s day holy for the praise of God?

Jesus rose from the dead ‘on the first day of the week.’  Because it is the ‘first day,’ the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation.  Because it is the ‘eight day’ following the Sabbath, it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection.  For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord’s Day – Sunday.”  (2174)

The Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life.”  (2177)

This practice of the Christian assembly dates from the beginnings of the apostolic age.  The Letter to the Hebrews reminds the faithful ‘not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another.’”  (2178)

As I have reflected and prayed about this importance of the Lord’s day, it has really been on my heart how important the weekly Mass is—not only in the regular life of the parish, but especially in preparation for receiving the sacraments of initiation (baptism, first communion, and confirmation).

For this reason, I have decided to begin requiring attendance at weekend Mass as an essential preparation for receiving the sacraments.  This will ensure that the child is taking seriously his or her sacramental preparation.  If we do not form a habit of living the Catholic life before receiving the sacraments, it rarely happens that this habit is formed later in life.  Thus, if a family does not make weekend Mass a priority, it will be determined that the child has not been properly prepared to receive the sacrament, and he or she will have to repeat the sacramental preparation year the following year.

Included in today’s bulletin is a copy of the letter I am sending home with all our parish families with children.  My hope is that this new emphasis on attending weekly Mass will help assist parents in helping their children know and love the Lord, and form a lifelong habit of gathering with the parish community and celebrating the Lord’s Day.

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke

 

 

2018 Parish Bazaar – many thanks!

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Thank you to everyone who attended our 2018 Parish Bazaar! We had many, many wonderful people helping to make the day both fun and successful. Thank you also to our very generous donors!

Please enjoy a few pictures from the day:

September 2, 2018 -22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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September 2, 2018

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

Seven Reasons to be Catholic

This month’s Lighthouse CD is Seven Reasons to be Catholic by Dr. Peter Kreeft.

Why should someone be Catholic when they could be anything else?  Most of us were born into a Catholic family, and that’s a wonderful thing.  But what if you had been born into a family with a different faith?  Maybe Lutheran.  Or Muslim.  Would there be any reason to consider becoming Catholic?  Or perhaps more importantly, why should you stay Catholic?

When it comes down to it, the question shouldn’t be “what religion was I born into”, but rather, “is it true?”  This is the only reason why someone should become Catholic or remain a Catholic, because it’s true.

Dr. Peter Kreeft is a world-renowned philosopher and best-selling author of over 35 books.  In my opinion—having read several of his books and listened to several of his talks—I think he is one of the best thinkers and clearest teachers in the Catholic world today.

In this CD, Dr. Kreeft articulates with great clarity seven reasons why anyone would want to become or remain a Catholic.  He draws from the treasured wisdom of such great spiritual thinkers as St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, C. S. Lewis, and Cardinal Newman.  He helps us to understand why the truth about God is so essential, and how it is found in the Catholic Church.

It is a very convincing talk on why everyone should be Catholic.

If it would be easier for you to listen to this (or any other Lighthouse CD talk) as an MP3, rather than on CD, please talk to me.

 

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke

August 26, 2018 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

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August 26, 2018

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

“We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

MARRIAGE – Love and Life in the Divine Plan

A Pastoral Letter by the Catholic Bishops of the United States (Very) Abridged Version

 

Marriage is a natural institution established by God the Creator. It is a permanent, faithful, fruitful partnership between one man and one woman, established by their free mutual consent. It has two purposes: the good of the spouses, called the unitive purpose, and the procreation and education of children.

When the baptized spouses exchange their promises of loving and permanent fidelity before the Church, their marriage covenant becomes a participation in the unbreakable covenant between Christ and the Church. The Holy Spirit binds the spouses together and enables them to perform acts of self-giving love to the benefit of themselves, their families, and the whole Church. In this way their marriage does more than symbolize Christ’s love; it makes that love present in the world.

In order to imitate Christ’s love for his Church, the relationship between man and woman needs healing. Their relationship is not a one-sided subjection of the wife to the husband, but a mutual subjection of husband and wife, following St. Paul’s charge to “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21).

The Christian married couple, with their children, forms an image of the Trinitarian God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Marriage and family life images the Trinity in two ways. First, like the Trinity, marriage is a communion of love between co-equal persons, beginning with husband and wife and extending to all the members of the family. Second, just as Trinity’s love is life-giving, a married couple’s love conceives and cares for children.

In addition to reflecting the Trinity, the family is a microcosm of the Church. The ancient expression “domestic church” accurately describes the family because it is a small communion of persons that draws its sustenance from the larger Church and reflects its life in unique ways. Within this domestic church, parents have a special responsibility to teach children the faith and help them to grow in virtue. The family matures as a domestic church by participating in the life and worship of the larger Church, especially Sunday Eucharist. In the Eucharist, members of the family are most fully united to Christ, to one another, and to their brothers and sisters throughout the world.

In the Eucharist Catholic couples meet Christ, the source of their marriage. This encounter moves them to reach out in love to the broader Church and to the world. The Eucharist nourishes the virtue of marital hospitality and helps the couple to recognize God’s image in others. This hospitality builds up the Church and makes it a stronger witness to Christ’s love in the world.

 

Note: Last weekend we began offering Holy Communion through intinction.  In case you missed my homily introducing it, I encourage you to listen to it on our website.

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke

August 19, 2018 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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August 19, 2018

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

  

“…whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Intinction

This weekend we are beginning the option of receiving Holy Communion by intinction.  Intinction means that the Host is dipped into the Precious Blood as it is distributed by the priest.

While “self-intinction” is not allowed (i.e. you dip the host yourself), intinction by the minister of Communion is allowed.  I have experienced using intinction at other parishes and think it is a very wonderful option for receiving Holy Communion.

There is great symbolism in intinction.  First and foremost, it signifies the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord.  Jesus is always fully present when we receive Communion—whether we receive only the host, or only the chalice, or if we receive both.  However, both the bread and the wine have a special symbolism, and receiving them together is considered the fullness of the sign of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist.  Through intinction, the Body and Blood of Christ are symbolically brought together as they are distributed to the faithful.

Additionally, the Body and Blood of Jesus together is a symbol of the Resurrection.  In Jewish sacrifice, when an animal was sacrificed to God, its blood was “poured out” from its body.  (Note the connection with Jesus’ words at the Last Supper of his blood being “poured out” as the perfect Lamb of God.)  When the body and blood are separated, death occurs.  Therefore, bringing the Body and Blood of Christ together in Communion is symbolic of Christ’s Resurrection—although Christ has died (his Body and Blood were separated,) yet he has also risen, and his Body and Blood brought back together.

This is the same reason why when the priest breaks the main host, he places a small fragment into the chalice, symbolic of the unity of Jesus’ Body and Blood.  And as he does this, the priest says a quiet prayer to God the Father: “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.

What a beautiful prayer to pray just before receiving Communion!  (And I encourage you to pray something similar in your own heart before you receive Communion too.)  Just as Jesus promised us in today’s Gospel: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”, so we pray that as we receive Communion here and now, we too may have eternal life.

A few practical notes…

Because the Blood of Christ is on the Host during intinction, Communion in this form must always be received on the tongue (not in the hands).  That being said, no one is forced to receive Communion on the tongue or by intinction.  If you wish to receive in your hands, simply have them open as you approach me for Communion, otherwise if you’re hands are folded, I will assume you would like to receive by intinction and on your tongue.

Additionally, I will plan to begin always distributing Communion on Mary’s side of the church (rather than changing every other weekend which side I distribute to), so if you would like to receive Communion by intinction, please plan to sit on that side.

I’m very excited to begin offering Communion by intinction at IC, and while it may take some getting used to, I hope you will give it a try.

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke

July 29, 2018 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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July 29, 2018

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“This is truly the prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

Humanae Vitae followup

Last weekend I preached about why the Church teaches that it is not permissible to use artificial birth control.  I recognize that this may be a difficult topic to hear about and challenging to live.  I also recognize that it might be very difficult, or even scary, to begin considering making a change from using contraception to learning to use Natural Family Planning.  I want to give some very practical advice on how to take the first steps in making this switch, and how to address legitimate concerns about using NFP.

Included in today’s bulletin is an excellent article entitled “What Do We Do Now? Making the Switch from Contraception to Natural Family Planning”, written by Patty Schneier on how to take the first steps in making this transition.  Patty has a powerful personal testimony about how she and her husband were very opposed to the Church’s teaching on contraception until God slowly began to work in her heart and guide her to see the wisdom and beauty of the Church’s teaching.  I hope this article by Patty will give hope and courage to know that you don’t face this challenge alone.

Here are some additional resources I highly recommend for more information on this topic:

  • If you didn’t hear my homily last weekend, you can listen to it or read it online through our website – click on “Bulletins & articles”.
  • Patty Schneier’s testimony “Prove it God, and He did” on CD (available in the Lighthouse kiosk in the back of church)
  • Janet Smith’s talk “Contraception why not? Cracking the Myths” on CD (available in the Lighthouse kiosk)
  • Jason Evert’s talk “Green Sex” on CD (I can make copies if you would like one)
  • Christopher West book “Good News about Sex and Marriage

Finally, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me to talk about this or to find more information.

You are in my daily prayers,

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke

July 22, 2018 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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July 22, 2018

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

 

Humanae Vitae

The Church has written several things about sexual morality including on the topic of contraception.  Unfortunately, many Catholics are not familiar with these documents.  In particular, I encourage everyone to read the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which is the main document explaining the Church’s reasons for condemning the use of artificial birth control.

Very often, people reject the Church’s teaching on contraception without taking an honest look at what the Church teaches and why.  In reality, the Church’s teaching on love and life is challenging, but very beautiful and reasonable.

I really hope you will take the time to read the entire document, which is just 13 pages long and can be read online or easily printed from the Vatican website, just search Google for Humanae Vitae.  Just this week I re-read it again too.  In this bulletin article I’d like to highlight a few of the lines from the document.

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.  It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

Married love…takes its origin from God, who ‘is love’”.

There is an “inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.”

to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator.

An act of “sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive [is] intrinsically wrong”.

If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births…married couples may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.”  This method of observing signs of fertility is called Natural Family Planning, or NFP.

It goes on to acknowledge that, although this is difficult to live in our world today, nevertheless, it is possible with God’s grace, and indeed He will come to the help of couples with “the grace by which the goodwill of men is sustained and strengthened.”

Then let them implore the help of God…with unremitting prayer and, most of all, let them draw grace and charity from that unfailing fount which is the Eucharist.

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke

 

July 15, 2018 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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July 15, 2018

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there & shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”

The Priesthood Series

Article 5 – The priesthood in the scriptures (Part 2)

There are several examples in the New Testament of priests in the early Church.  In Greek, the word “presbyter” (literally “elder”) is usually used to designate a priest.  And as the Apostles establish new Christian communities, they appoint “elders” to lead them.

Acts 14:23 describes how Paul and Barnabas “appointed elders for [the believers] in every church”.

St. Paul writes to Timothy: “If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus….Command and teach these things.  Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  Till I come, attend to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, to teaching.  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you” (1 Timothy 4:6-14).  And St. Paul adds in his Second Letter to Timothy: “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).

In this, St. Paul, an Apostles (and thus a bishop), is writing to the Timothy, and instructing him to preach and teach with authority, because he has been ordained by God through the laying on of hands of other elders.  This laying on of hands is exactly how Catholic priests are still ordained today.

St. Paul also instructs new elders not only to teach and govern, but also to continue the apostolic succession by appointing additional elders.  St. Paul writes to Titus: “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5).

Note how the new “elders” do not appoint themselves, nor does the local community appoint or “hire” them, rather, elders are always appointed by current apostles or elders.  This has been the practice of the Catholic Church since the beginning, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, “no one takes this honor upon himself, but only he who is called by God” (Hebrews 5:4).

And in the Acts of the Apostles, we again hear St. Paul remind the elders that they were appointed by the Holy Spirit: St. Paul “called to him the elders of the Church.  And when they came to him, he said to them….Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the Church of the Lord” (Acts 17-28).

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is described as being administered only by priests: “Is any among you sick?  Let him call for the elders [priests] of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).

And one final example is St. Paul speaking about his authority to speak and act in the name of Christ: “People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1).  A steward is one who acts in another’s name.  Thus, claiming to act as a “steward of the mysteries of God”, means one has the power to reveal or make present the mysteries of God.  This is amazing.  This is the task of the priest, to reveal or make present the mysteries of God; to represent God to his people.

Next up, I will begin addressing current “hot topics”.  The first will be the question of priestly celibacy.  Stay tuned!

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke

 

July 8, 2018 – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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July 8, 2018

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”

 

The Priesthood Series

Article 4 – The priesthood in the scriptures (Part 1)

 

 

There are many scripture passages which relate to the priesthood.  This week I will focus on the words of Jesus.

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “I tell you, you are Peter, and   on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-20).

John chapter 17 is called the “High priestly prayer of Jesus” as he prays for his apostles during the Last Supper.  During this prayer Jesus said, “I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world….Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth” (John 17:9,17-19).  The beginning of this quote shows that Jesus was very intentional in praying specifically for his apostles.  He then declares that they are consecrated before the Father just as he is.

Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:21-23).  Again, Jesus is present just with his apostles, and he gives them his own power to forgive sins in his name.  And not only that, he says that they are sent out by him just as he has been sent out by his Father.  In other words, they are to go out to the world and teach and act In Persona Christi—in the person of Christ.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:19).  Notice Jesus says “Do this”; he didn’t say “Go write down my words”.  Thankfully the apostles did write down Jesus’ words, but even before they wrote anything, they began “doing this in remembrance of Jesus”, in other words, they began celebrating the Mass and consecrating the Body and Blood of Jesus as he commanded them to.

Now the eleven disciples when to Galilee….And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).  Jesus claims universal and absolute power.  And again, Jesus is present only with his (now 11) apostles.  In this statement Jesus is not simply designating his apostles as his minions who just talk about him, but they have his own authority.  This is why Jesus begins by declaring his authority—“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”—and then immediately adds—“Go therefore!  And make disciples…”—they are sent out to act in the name and with the power of Jesus himself.  Just as Jesus had previously given Peter the power of binding and loosing in heaven and on earth (Matt 16:19), so now Jesus gives this power over heaven and earth to all 11 apostles.

Additionally, this passage shows the very practical necessity for there to be leaders in the Church that Jesus has established, not just in the first century, but until “the end of the age”.  For, without leaders, how could the Church continue?  How could the words of Jesus, the faith, authentically and completely be taught?  Without leaders who have the authority to speak and act in the name of Jesus we would be on our own to try to read the scriptures and try to interpret them for ourselves (which is why we now have more than 30,000 different Protestant denominations…because each of these is another group or individual claiming that they properly interpret the scriptures.)  Thankfully, because Jesus gave his authority to his apostles and their successors, the Catholic Church has always authentically taught the fullness of the Truth of Jesus, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”.

 

June 24, 2018 – The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

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June 24, 2018

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

“What then will this child be?  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”

 

The Priesthood Series

Article 3 – What does a priest do?

The most basic definition of a priest is a mediator between God and men.  This is what we see in priests throughout every time and culture.  The priest offers sacrifice to God, and sends the blessing of God to His people.

More specifically, Catholic priests have two major duties: Preaching, and celebrating the Sacraments.

Those are duties for all priests.  Beyond that, a priest may exercise his priesthood and a variety of specific “jobs”, such as a parish priest, a teacher, a hospital chaplain, etc.  However, the identity and primary duties of a priest are universal and do not depend upon his particular job.

The Church teaches that priests “have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all.  In this way they fulfill the command of the Lord: ‘Go therefore into the whole world preaching the Gospel to every creature’ ” (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4).  It likewise states that priests fulfill their “principle function” in celebrating the Eucharist (cf. PO, 12).  So on the one hand, the priest’s “primary duty” is to preach the Gospel, while on the other hand his “principle function”, is to celebrate the Eucharist.

While at first this might seem like a contradiction, the two actually are in perfect harmony.  If the preaching function comes first in the chronological order, it follows that the Eucharistic Liturgy must count as the culmination of priestly action.  And this makes perfect sense, for, “How can they call on the one of whom they have not heard….faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10:14,17), and the purpose of all faith and calling on God is Communion with God: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

And we see these two duties of the priest come together perfectly in the Mass.  The first part of the Mass is the preaching of the Word of God, and the second part of the Mass is the celebration of Eucharist.  Just as a priest’s duty of preaching leads people to Christ, so too in the Mass the celebration of the Word leads us to Christ in the Eucharist.

As the Synod of Bishops in 1971 said, “The ministry of the Word, if rightly understood, leads to the sacraments and to the Christian life, as it is practiced in the visible community of the Church and in the world….Unity between evangelization and sacramental life is always proper to the ministerial priesthood and must be carefully kept in mind by every priest.”

Other duties of the priest include: Shepherding the faithful; Presenting the needs and prayers of the faithful to God, and uniting the prayers of the faithful to that of Christ; Exercising the ministry of alleviation and reconciliation for the sick and sinners; etc.  In everything, the nature of the priesthood is one of service.  In imitation of the Lord, a priest must serve like the Lord, and for the glory of the Lord.

In conclusion, the priest is a mediator between God and men.  As Scripture says, there is “one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (1 Tim 2:5), and the priest stands in the person of Christ as he offers prayers “for everyone—petitions, intercessions, and thanksgiving” (1 Tim 2:1).  The priest is a mediator through his participation in the mediation of Christ.

God bless you,

Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke